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Broadening Your Resume When Job Experience is Scarce

published November 13, 2006

( 307 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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Many law students spend their entire college careers focusing on their studies and overall academic performances, which leaves them no time to hold down full-time jobs. Although this sacrifice pays off when students end up with records of high scholastic achievement upon graduation, full-time law students can find it difficult to put together resumes demonstrating strong, relevant experience and skills. However, we can help you find solutions to that problem. Too often, students overlook some of their greatest qualifications and skills simply because they were not derived from paid, full-time jobs.
Broadening Your Resume When Job Experience is Scarce

Involvement in school-wide organizations, societies, and/or clubs can help you develop many stellar attributes that employers will fall in love with. If you have served in any leadership positions within organizations, societies, and/or clubs, you have likely gained experience with team-building, organization, coordination, collaboration, follow-through, and responsibility—all skills and qualities you can mention on your resume. You can also incorporate any experience with creating, planning, and carrying out school-wide activities or fundraisers. If you are still in school, sharing your talents and dedication with your peers and faculty will help you to build valuable personal and professional relationships that will last you for years to come. And, based on these relationships, you will be able to develop a list of references that will come in handy.

Volunteer work also provides opportunities for exercising your abilities to take initiative, improve the community, and serve others. During your free time or on weekends, try tutoring young children, organizing and conducting food drives, visiting and entertaining at nursing homes, and reading to children in hospitals. These kinds of work will help you to develop strong skills as a humanitarian and an individual. Simply put, people want to work with those who are nice, friendly, and understanding. If you have a crummy personality and no mercy for others, you will never make it in most professions.

If any part of your involvement with school or community activities ties in with the interests of a potential employer, it would obviously be beneficial to mention that within your resume and cover letter. For example, if you are applying for an environmental law firm position and you volunteered with a chapter of the Audubon Society last summer or were involved with a similar organization at your school, your background and experience will give you a great advantage over others.

Internships are the prime example of paid or unpaid experience that can develop viable employment skills related to specific, desired job positions. As soon as you know what you want to do in terms of your career, you should start applying for relevant internships and clerkships whenever you can afford the time. The real-world experience and knowledge that one can acquire in such positions is invaluable to a young law professional. (And you may even form relationships with employers who can hire you permanently or refer you to other jobs.)

Internships are unique because employers often assign interns much of the same work and many of the same kinds of projects that they would normally complete by themselves, giving students real insight into what careers in certain areas will entail. In addition to providing impressive jewels for a resume, internship experience can be the deciding factor in whether or not a law student wants to continue on his or her chosen career path. Even if an internship you held in the past is not relevant to a desired job position, it still will have provided valid work experience that you can cite to demonstrate your familiarity with the professional world, social skills, compromising, and problem-solving. Along with internships, random part-time jobs that you may have taken throughout school to earn extra money are also valid work experience that can be reflected upon in this manner. Of course, if you have two pages' worth of very relevant intern and full-time job experience, it may not be necessary to mention everything; use your best judgment to decide how much of your background to mention.

While considering your collection of skills, be aware that you probably should avoid getting too personal. When I say personal, I mean that you should not list any experiences and/or attributes that reflect your personal information regarding those two topics that most conversationalists aim to avoid: politics and religion. Although you may be able to showcase some great qualities associated with positions you have held within your church or volunteer work that you have done for political campaigns, those affiliations are best kept concealed, in order to protect you from the judgment or biases of an employer. What if your potential boss has a dislike for your religion or political affiliation? This is another example of what I usually call "job search suicide." Of course, you would overlook this if you were applying for a position within your church or associated with a particular political affiliation; just make sure that the information you provide is relevant.

Like mentioning politics and religion, listing hobbies or interests can also be a risk, as it can backfire. Hobbies such as traveling, horseback riding, and scrapbooking are nice and all, but, really, most employers do not care what you like to do when you are not working. That is something to discuss when the two of you are making small talk after you've been hired. In some circumstances, employers may even be turned off by your hobbies, which might spark images in their minds of you asking for three weeks off to fly to the Caribbean for a horseback riding and scrapbooking extravaganza. It sounds extreme, but it is best to avoid giving potential employers these kinds of ideas, if you can help it.

The only case in which you might disregard this rule would be if you were applying for a job that specializes in a certain area that interests you. If you were applying for a position that would entail or loosely deal with travel, work with horses, and/or scrapbooking, for example, of course mentioning those hobbies would be relevant.

Reflect on all of the professional involvement that you have had throughout your life, extracting as many personal growth and learning experiences as you can. Take the time to figure out what your greatest abilities and accomplishments are, creating a list of legitimate and outstanding experiences to mention on your resume.

Read More About Legal Resumes


( 307 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.